Harvey Was Political

The decisions to pave over the wetlands were political. The decisions to locate refineries in floodplains were political. The pretense that we are not responsible for global climate disruption is political. Politicians and corporate CEO’s arbitrarily rejected scientific understanding for personal gain. Harvey was political.

The Houston flood is political, not an act of God: it is the result of a long series of political decisions, some mistakes, many intentional efforts to place corporations ahead of people. Cities should not exist on floodplains; invaluable wetlands should not be paved over; city officials should not base flood control decisions on the incomes of the residents; chemical factories and oil refineries that flood pollutants if themselves flooded should not be built on floodplains: political decisions by politicians and corporate CEOs in smoke-filled rooms.

And for the future, politicians denying the security consequences for American society of denying global warming should be cast aside like the enemies of society that they are. And there’s more. Houston is nothing. If you really want to see the future of the world, look at Bangladesh: a country of 100 million with a third of the country under water the same week as Houston. Am I saying that the U.S. will look like Bangladesh in the near future? No, I am saying that when hundreds of millions of people around the globe face natural disasters such as Houston or Bangladesh or India or Pakistan are facing this week, then a very noticeable percentage of them will attempt by any means possible to move somewhere better. We are talking about sustained refugee floods far greater than anything out of Syria, year after year…until politicians face up to the security implications of denying global warming.

The corporate executives who made the decisions–in the face of solid scientific analysis shouted from the rooftops by experts for years—have caused incalculable harm to American society and should be held criminally responsible. Katrina provided the lesson, which was ignored for personal profit, Sandy provided a second lesson, and now Harvey: three one-in-a-thousand pieces of “bad luck” resulting from “nothing” and having “no meaning at all.” The first two lessons were immediately and completely and carefully forgotten, for the convenience of a few CEO’s and their political lackeys. Harvey too will be swept under the rug by politicians who knuckle under to corporate pressure unless we insist—right now—on holding them responsible.

With Port Arthur, Texas completely under water, a resident observed:

anybody who don’t [sic] believe that climate change is real must be living in another universe, because what we’re seeing here on the ground is land erosion. There is a beach that we used to frequent when I was a kid here, and the surf sat back maybe about a good 50 yards from where it is now. Right now, that surf sits within feet, five or six feet, of the road, and you can no longer take portions of that road into Galveston from the Sabine Pass area, because the land has completely been eroded. Our wetlands and canals are breaking apart because the water is coming in from the Gulf into the marshy areas, and it’s also having a heavy impact on the natural wildlife that is there, such as the gators and other animals that need the wetlands and not necessarily salt water. [Democracy Now.]

All you have to do is open your eyes.

Harvey would, fifty years ago, have been a “once-in-1000-years” event. That was before man-caused global climate disruption; that was before 5,000,000 people decided to live and build half the nation’s refinery capacity on floodplains that constituted the prime defensive shield against disastrous flooding. The Houston disaster is man-made, and it has been made despite well-established scientific and technical understanding for several decades of the critical importance of floodplains as nature’s flood-control system and of man-made intensification of climate disruption (i.e., the argument over the portion man-made and the portion due to some possible but as yet undiscovered natural process is a red herring).


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